Opinion: Powers of persuasion

The size of a legal team must be governed by need, not cost. And legal heads should not be afraid to ask for what they need. By Dominic Bacon

I joined CMC Markets in April to create and head up its global legal department. That in itself wasn’t as much of a gamble as it could have been because I was told before I started that we were under-resourced. However, I was uncertain whether that would translate into support from the business for a radical revamp.

I concluded that we should recruit seven new lawyers. For the UK, I wanted a mix of seniority and ambition: a head of UK, three lawyers to focus on specific businesses, and someone for IP and IT. Globally, I wanted people with more of a back-office focus, including policy creation and someone to focus on new jurisdictions and associated regulatory lobbying.

When writing the proposal to put to the company, I decided to stay at the conceptual level. I started by using the various objectives I had been given since I joined. Then I interlaced them with my perception of the risks and challenges facing us over the next two years as well as what I had been told about where the business was going.

I deliberately chose not to do the traditional cost/benefit analysis largely because this is much more subjective (and emotive) than people assume: nor did I promise that external legal fees would be reduced – although I hope they will be especially as we won’t be needing expensive secondees.

A first draft of the proposal elicited the response that it seemed excessive: after all, there hadn’t been any problems before I joined so why such a significant increase and restructuring. And that was just from my wife.
I discussed the proposals with all the executive directors, individually, and got their buy-in on the conceptual level, explaining how this would assist the businesses for which they were responsible whilst not adding to their cost base – as costs would not be recharged.

Then I went to the board armed with supporting papers such as a detailed explanation of the mundane tasks we were doing, an external analysis of how you measure the return on investment on legal departments, draft job descriptions, salary surveys, details of conversations with the business heads in which they stated their strategic plans, etc.

Then, as I was about to launch into the presentation, it became clear that the focus was not on the justification, which was accepted, but how would I implement it.

And that was when I allowed myself to start to think about how the size of the recruitment would affect the culture of the department and the dynamics of the individuals already there and secondly, how would I manage the recruitment as well as ensuring that the day-to-day work was done properly.

This article is the first instalment of a two part series.

Dominic Bacon is global head of legal and compliance at CMC Markets